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i actually just like exclamation points!

Oh Joy Flowers

Oh Joy Flowers

Lately, I've been coming across these business articles that claim there are some words you should never use—especially at work or when it comes to making business deals—and how women often use these words way more than men. When I read these articles, I it makes me realize how much I actually (see?!?) use these words, but the reasons as to why we use them and when we shouldn't are so interesting…

"actually" – By saying the word "actually" in excess, it's saying that you are clarifying something that doesn't need clarification. For example, "I actually did see the market report." I can see how there's no need for the word "actually" there, and you could just say "I saw the market report." Plain and simple.

"just" – I do this all the time. Usually in an apologetic manner, I send emails saying "I just wanted to check in on my last email." Or, "I just have to go over there for 5 minutes." By using the word "just" we are apologizing in advance for something we're about to do. It's been shown that women use the word way more than men do. Ever since I read the article, I have been removing "just" from all my emails before I hit send and using it only when it's really needed. (I'm still working on cutting it out during business phone calls.)

the exclamation point - One time, while Bob was driving, he asked me to send a text for him to one of his colleagues. He told me to say "Good job". In my mind, I heard that as "Good job!" so I texted exactly that (with an exclamation mark). After I sent it, and he realized I had included the exclamation mark, we debated for 10 minutes why I thought it should be there and why he didn't think it should. My thought was that if you are telling someone something positive, the exclamation mark echoes your feelings. Just to say it with a period at the end sounds too dry and serious over text. His response was that the message was positive and he doesn't have to exclaim loudly "Good job!!!". I guess I'll never see his point on this one, and I will happily continue to use exclamation points when I think it's necessary. (Also, Bob no longer lets me send texts for him.)

What do you guys think? Do you guys use (and overuse) these words or marks like I do?

{Photo by Casey Brodley}

65 comments

  1. Love this and so identify with each one of these examples. I too tend to use “just”, actually and !. I would have put the exclamation at the end of Good Job for the very same reasons you quoted 🙂
    Thanks for sharing these tips, will start cutting out the “just” in my emails!

  2. I’m honestly getting so tired of all of the articles intending to police women on the way that we speak. I swear it’s almost as if there’s a new one every other day with new words we should avoid. Does using the words “actually” or “just” or “like” really diminish our intelligence or authority? Not even slightly. So what if men don’t use them as often – their speech patterns shouldn’t be the standard.

  3. I use those words and things all the time! In fact I just checked (see?!) an email I wrote recently and I am guilty of two out of the three offenses. Going to try to be more aware of it, but I am in your camp of wanting to show enthusiasm through !!

  4. This is really interesting to me because, on some level I agree that if you speak more directly you can be taken more seriously, but I also think that we need to stop targeting women only for the way they speak. If half of the population speaks a certain way (and that’s assuming only women do these things, but I think it’s more likely that only women are criticized for them) how can that be wrong? I also think it’s worth noting that often when women don’t soften their language they’re perceived as harsh and to use a word I don’t use…b*tches. Basically I’m saying I don’t know what I’m saying or what is right. Haha.

  5. EXCLAMATION MARKS ARE MY FAV! I studied Journalism and my professors hated them. “That means you’re screaming at your audience.” I’m totally on your train of thought, though. It adds extra positivity to positive things! (see?!)

  6. Ha! I love the way you titled this article, Joy! And I think it would be awesome if a woman wrote an article about what men do wrong when they communicate. I understand the point of these articles, but instead of serving to diminish our intelligence or authority, I believe the words just and actually demonstrate humility. I think the other end of the spectrum is (maybe the masculine default?) over-confidence, which really rubs me the wrong way sometimes. No one is right 100% of the time, so why speak as though everything we say is fact?

  7. I’ve read articles like this too (!)
    I don’t use “actually” at all in work emails, but I use “just” in tons. I’m really try to kick that habit.
    -E

  8. I just wanted to take a minute of your time to comment on this post that I actually completely relate to all of these points! Ha, long live the exclamation point! I had a boss recently who disallowed any use of exclamation points in our writing and I found it very difficult. I see the point of the other 2 thoughts, though, and have edited my writing in similar ways in the past. I think it’s the nature of women vs me though and it’s tough to edit yourself all the time.

  9. Hey there, Oh Joy! (Clearly, I love myself a good exclamation mark … or three). I agree completely with this post, but I came across this article over the weekend and it definitely got me thinking … maybe the way women use “just, actually, so,” and “like” is a MORE evolved way of speaking. As in, the way women naturally communicate suggests better understanding and articulation of a message. It’s definitely a fascinating read, so here is the link: http://nymag.com/thecut/2015/07/can-we-just-like-get-over-the-way-women-talk.html … enjoy!

  10. I think that your field also makes a difference. Creative professionals have more license for emotion than someone who is in finance or law, for example. I do agree that women tend to be much more apologetic in conversation and correspondence. It’s something that I’ve tried to consciously change over the years. The fear of being perceived as bitchy or bossy at work are very real, and probably why we apologize and use friendlier punctuation. I welcome both of those adjectives and take them as compliments. <---I used a lot of restraint there- totally wanted to end with both an exclamation point AND a smiley face! 🙂

  11. These are all things I’ve been really trying to work on lately. Just there. I refrained from using that exclamation point at the end of that first sentence and decided not to. I feel like I overuse it a ton. I recently read the article about not using the word “just”, and realized how often I use it in business emails and how much I should be omitting that as well. And this was the hardest comment in history to write as I sit here trying to refrain from using every poor grammatical choice possible.

  12. Not to be sexist but I’ve had the exclaimation mark debate with my husband too. My generalization is that women speak with more intonations and thus want to convey them in text form too…

  13. I’m totally with you on the exclamation point. I have had this exact discussion with my husband. Haha! I know that technically, I sound like I’m yelling a phrase in writing, but I think it’s my “people pleasing” personality that is coming through – I just worry that since emails/texts/comments are not in person, that someone might read me the wrong way… so why not overemphasize happy thoughts, words of encouragement and gratefulness? I think that’s better than my personally dreaded email ending:
    “Thanks.”
    … and then in my mind I’m picturing some sassy, aloof individual that’s kind of backhanded “thanking” me… Of which, I have no basis for thinking that way. 😛

  14. I’m totally with you on the exclamation point. I have had this exact discussion with my husband. Haha! I know that technically, I sound like I’m yelling a phrase in writing, but I think it’s my “people pleasing” personality that is coming through – I just worry that since emails/texts/comments are not in person, that someone might read me the wrong way… so why not overemphasize happy thoughts, words of encouragement and gratefulness? I think that’s better than my personally dreaded email ending:
    “Thanks.”
    … and then in my mind I’m picturing some sassy, aloof individual that’s kind of backhanded “thanking” me… Of which, I have no basis for thinking that way. 😛

  15. I’m totally with you on the exclamation point. I have had this exact discussion with my husband. Haha! I know that technically, I sound like I’m yelling a phrase in writing, but I think it’s my “people pleasing” personality that is coming through – I just worry that since emails/texts/comments are not in person, that someone might read me the wrong way… so why not overemphasize happy thoughts, words of encouragement and gratefulness? I think that’s better than my personally dreaded email ending:
    “Thanks.”
    … and then in my mind I’m picturing some sassy, aloof individual that’s kind of backhanded “thanking” me… Of which, I have no basis for thinking that way. 😛

  16. I’m totally with you on the exclamation point. I have had this exact discussion with my husband. Haha! I know that technically, I sound like I’m yelling a phrase in writing, but I think it’s my “people pleasing” personality that is coming through – I just worry that since emails/texts/comments are not in person, that someone might read me the wrong way… so why not overemphasize happy thoughts, words of encouragement and gratefulness? I think that’s better than my personally dreaded email ending:
    “Thanks.”
    … and then in my mind I’m picturing some sassy, aloof individual that’s kind of backhanded “thanking” me… Of which, I have no basis for thinking that way. 😛

  17. I’m totally with you on the exclamation point. I have had this exact discussion with my husband. Haha! I know that technically, I sound like I’m yelling a phrase in writing, but I think it’s my “people pleasing” personality that is coming through – I just worry that since emails/texts/comments are not in person, that someone might read me the wrong way… so why not overemphasize happy thoughts, words of encouragement and gratefulness? I think that’s better than my personally dreaded email ending:
    “Thanks.”
    … and then in my mind I’m picturing some sassy, aloof individual that’s kind of backhanded “thanking” me… Of which, I have no basis for thinking that way. 😛

  18. I’m totally with you on the exclamation point. I have had this exact discussion with my husband. Haha! I know that technically, I sound like I’m yelling a phrase in writing, but I think it’s my “people pleasing” personality that is coming through – I just worry that since emails/texts/comments are not in person, that someone might read me the wrong way… so why not overemphasize happy thoughts, words of encouragement and gratefulness? I think that’s better than my personally dreaded email ending:
    “Thanks.”
    … and then in my mind I’m picturing some sassy, aloof individual that’s kind of backhanded “thanking” me… Of which, I have no basis for thinking that way. 😛

  19. I’m totally with you on the exclamation point. I have had this exact discussion with my husband. Haha! I know that technically, I sound like I’m yelling a phrase in writing, but I think it’s my “people pleasing” personality that is coming through – I just worry that since emails/texts/comments are not in person, that someone might read me the wrong way… so why not overemphasize happy thoughts, words of encouragement and gratefulness? I think that’s better than my personally dreaded email ending:
    “Thanks.”
    … and then in my mind I’m picturing some sassy, aloof individual that’s kind of backhanded “thanking” me… Of which, I have no basis for thinking that way. 😛

  20. I’m totally with you on the exclamation point. I have had this exact discussion with my husband. Haha! I know that technically, I sound like I’m yelling a phrase in writing, but I think it’s my “people pleasing” personality that is coming through – I just worry that since emails/texts/comments are not in person, that someone might read me the wrong way… so why not overemphasize happy thoughts, words of encouragement and gratefulness? I think that’s better than my personally dreaded email ending:
    “Thanks.”
    … and then in my mind I’m picturing some sassy, aloof individual that’s kind of backhanded “thanking” me… Of which, I have no basis for thinking that way. 😛

  21. I’m totally with you on the exclamation point. I have had this exact discussion with my husband. Haha! I know that technically, I sound like I’m yelling a phrase in writing, but I think it’s my “people pleasing” personality that is coming through – I just worry that since emails/texts/comments are not in person, that someone might read me the wrong way… so why not overemphasize happy thoughts, words of encouragement and gratefulness? I think that’s better than my personally dreaded email ending:
    “Thanks.”
    … and then in my mind I’m picturing some sassy, aloof individual that’s kind of backhanded “thanking” me… Of which, I have no basis for thinking that way. 😛

  22. I’m totally with you on the exclamation point. I have had this exact discussion with my husband. Haha! I know that technically, I sound like I’m yelling a phrase in writing, but I think it’s my “people pleasing” personality that is coming through – I just worry that since emails/texts/comments are not in person, that someone might read me the wrong way… so why not overemphasize happy thoughts, words of encouragement and gratefulness? I think that’s better than my personally dreaded email ending:
    “Thanks.”
    … and then in my mind I’m picturing some sassy, aloof individual that’s kind of backhanded “thanking” me… Of which, I have no basis for thinking that way. 😛

  23. Yes, I use all of the words you are not supposed to. I would also add the discussion regarding “sorry” as that one is used so often too. Now that I’m conscious of it, I hear myself do it ALL THE TIME. I have been rewording my emails since some of the discussion online, but it’s hard since I’m so used to it!

  24. I don’t see a problem with any of these words (actually, just,sorry) because if anything, it makes women sound more POLITE than men and that’s nothing to be ashamed of. Perhaps men could take a tip from us in that respect! I am against the overuse of the words ‘like’ and ‘you know’ mostly because the overuse of those words makes you sound like an idiot. Pull your thoughts together before you speak is the takeaway here I think.
    (P.S. Long live the exclamation point!)

  25. this had me laughing (as i pump at work, ha!). i am guilty of all 3 things, but agree with some other commenters that the articles do unfairly target women with regards to those words. that being said, i have been more conscious about removing “just” from my work emails!
    as for the exclamation points, i love them – but within moderation!
    i have a sort of acquaintance mom friend who uses them in excess, like “hi!!!! that would so great!!!!!” <-- see? overkill.

  26. I’ve done the same for Klaus and we’ve had the same debate. I think it’s rooted in how as women, most of us want to be liked + also how as women we tend to want to bond. So an exclamation point says ‘ Hey, I’m friendly!”
    That said, I removed all “justs” out of my emails yesterday too.
    And I am dying to use an exclamation point right now. And an emoji. And now a hashtag. Maybe we’re all 14 year old girls at heart?

  27. I’ve been trying to say “just” less often too, and in the workplace especially, I feel like I’m already being taken more seriously. Especially in emails…I’m definitely guilty of starting requests with saying “I just wanted to…” Why is that necessary? Now I just say what I want — the way many of my male colleagues do.

  28. haha, what a hilarious exchange between you and your husband.
    i think as the younger generation that grew up with texting and social media, its’s o hard to transition to the working world, where smileys and !!!!’s and draaaaagginnngggggg letters are not that accepted. it’s still a work in progress for me.. i feel so mean everytime I send an email without something extra, haha

  29. My husband and I have the exact same exclamation point debate. I do love exclamation points and sometimes after writing a card to someone I look back and see that I ended every sentence with one. Ha. Same goes for a text, now to be funny he usually answers my texts with “yes!” And “sure!” I recently turned in a shooting schedule and my female producer said “Looks great!” and my male producer said, “Everything is fine except I think you can lose the exclamation point” (in one of the headers). Figures!

  30. My concern with these articles (which I read and have allowed to affect my speech) is that they assume the way men speak is the right way and that we women are doing it wrong. Why is that? Couldn’t we argue that men sometimes speak too formally and the way women speak puts people at ease, which is a positive thing and an equally valid way of communicating?

  31. I love this post! I use “just” a lot, as well as exclamation points. I think it’s the blogger in me that encourages me to overuse them. But I swear, I re-read everything and more often than not they’re needed! I also think the yelling is now using all caps rather than too many exclamation points, haha.

  32. I came to the comment section to post that exact article. Thank you!
    After working on a few male-dominated campaigns I erased “just” and “sorry” from my vocabulary, and reinforced a bad habit of interrupting people. Switching gears to a nonprofit I had to learn to put those extra words as well as others (“friendly reminder”) back in as not to intimidate and alienate softer spoken people with just as good ideas. I believe my leadership and the empowerment of my supervisee are better because of the change back.

  33. This post made me laugh out loud because I overuse exclamation points all the time. I actually re-read my emails and blog posts and take 90% of them out. 🙂 Ah, well. I think they’re fun! 🙂 🙂

  34. I think maybe men are comparatively less concerned about how they sound to others? Women tend to focus more on how we are perceived, how we make the other person feel etc. I think it’s fine for us to talk & write like who we are. Simply because it makes us comfortable =)

  35. Such good points. I use “just” way too much. And I totally get the exclamation point thing. Whenever I receive an email from my more serious friends I have to remind myself not to feel hurt when they write “It was good to see you.” not “It was good to see you!”

  36. But I love my exclamation points!!! (Yes, I did this on purpose ^^)
    Seriously, I’m using way too much exclamation points daily, maybe because of my forum years, writing the way I speak. So now, when I’m writing, I’m doing a first text, and then I delete most of the exclamation points, to only keep the necessary ones. But I must be honest : I miss them ! 🙂

  37. What an interesting conversation! (She said with an exclamation mark…)
    I have been following all of these articles about how women communicate, and they raise many intriguing questions. I read one article justifying “just,” saying that it adds emphasis or clarity. I know that it all depends.
    I loved (and felt sad about) the comment above from Kate, who said that she always calls herself “just Kate” on the phone. She wondered why she does this–to me, the subtext is that she feels somehow intrusive when calling someone (which makes me sad, because I’m sure her friends and family are like, “YAY! It’s Kate!). But it’s a funny verbal tic–we all have these, don’t we?
    Maybe a heightened awareness of language and how we say what we say is useful for everyone. Historically, I’ve been a big “sorry-er” in emails and especially while making requests, but lately, I have been making an effort not to pre-emptively apologize. In a way, it tries to “manage” the reaction of the other person, which is not always a healthy thing.
    Some of my own writing is over-communication–one of the commenters linked this to people-pleasing, and making sure that people “don’t think a certain way” about us. I’m definitely trying to work on that aspect of my communication, especially through email.
    All that said, I am a fan of the occasional exclamation mark, and those “softening” words sometimes work wonders in terms of creating a human tone in a very techy/non-warm space. I teach online, and bringing authenticity and my real personality to my communications with students has been very helpful in making actual connections with them (and not just sounding like a teacher-bot).
    Thanks for the great conversation here!

  38. I use exclamation points when I’m really feeling them, or when I’m in a exchange with someone I’m not completely comfortable in my skin with.
    But I do agree, whenever I get a praise without an exclamation point it feels really authentic, an when I finally get one with an exclamation point from the same person I feel like they mean it even more !

  39. Loved this post, I am also an over user of the word ‘just’ will try and remedy that, but sticking by love of the exclamation mark! 🙂

  40. this is so funny! i’ve been trying to use less exclamation points and be very direct with the way i communicate via email.

  41. Absolutely 100% agree with you on the exclamation points! (See? I just can’t help it.) Even in a business setting, “Thank you!” seems so much more genuine and appreciative than “Thank you.”.

  42. All the time! I LOVE just and actually. When I blog I rarely use exclamation marks because of old English teachers in my head, but in commenting and social media the are my go to. They feel relaxed and happy…so I just actually really love them! 😉

  43. I have to admit that I was laughing when reading this post, especially when it came to the exclamation point. I am always adding this punctuation to my writing because, like you, I feel like I am trying to convey a sort of emotion with the words that people are reading. I do have to agree that it is not always necessary and I probably use it way more than I should. The struggle to convey a certain tone in writing is always there and for me an added ! in a sentence can often brighten the tone.
    Rachel
    http://rachelinflight.com

  44. I did use the exclamation point for my husband’s text too (and since then he’s sure to tell me to put a period instead of leaving it open ended for me to add what I think should be in there). He said “I don’t understand why you’re exclaiming over everything” after realising that I go “Hello there!” in my email response too. Heh…

  45. Yes to all of these! I did the exclamation on my boyfriends text once, and got the same response. ha! Do they seem girly or something? I don’t think I can stop !!!!, but I do catch myself adding a “just” to my emails all the time, and I’m going to have to try and cut those out. Great Post!

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